- BlackBerry Hub is excellent
- No Full HD display
Does a bigger device make for a sweeter BlackBerry 10 experience? That’s what the Canadian smartphone maker is hoping with its new flagship phone – the BlackBerry Z30; which brings to the table more powerful hardware and a larger display than any previous handset in the company’s history.
If looks could maim…
BlackBerry is billing the Z30 as the replacement to its current all-touchscreen device, the BlackBerry Z10 and it’s easy to see why. Larger footprint aside, it’s a more imposing handset, it exudes a sense of power. As with the company’s premium QWERTY BlackBerry Q10, the Z30 adopts the same woven glass back plate, which emulates a carbon fibre pattern – a material more at home on high performance sports cars. This removable plate has a soft touch finish that offers good amounts of grip on flat surfaces or in the hand and the rounded edges add comfort too.
For a flagship, we were a little disappointed to discover that the silver at the base of the fascia and banding the edge of the phone’s body was made of plastic, as brushed aluminum would have been a more fitting material choice, better placing it amidst more elegant metal and glass bodied rivals, such as the iPhone 5S, HTC One and Xperia Z1.
Most probably as a result of its large battery, the BlackBerry Z30 feels reassuring solid in the hand but also fairly hefty at 170 grams. Hardware controls consist of the power/lock key along with volume and voice command keys on the side, but the gesture-based UI means there’s not much else going on. The right side features a microUSB port but the inclusion of a microHDMI out just above is a true highlight.
The display on the Z30 is the largest ever to grace a BlackBerry handset – a 5-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED panel offering rich, vivid colours and great viewing angles. The 720p HD resolution doesn’t yield the same level of clarity as the Full HD panel of say, the HTC One, but nonetheless it’s still a great display for enjoying media and reading documentation on.
Ahead of the pack? Sort of
BlackBerry 10.2 is the latest revision of the company’s refreshed mobile operating system and the Z30 is the first handset in the lineup that’s able to enjoy the new functionality it offers. The user interface is primarily gesture driven, with swiping used to move between home screens, access menus, close applications and reveal BlackBerry Hub – the control centre for all your email, social accounts and notifications.
New features in BBOS 10.2 include the new Priority Hub, which intelligently highlights the most important messages and notifications you’d want to be aware of in a single feed. Notifications are also richer, giving you the ability to interact with, say an incoming BBM without having to open the app.
It’s an elegant interface to interact with, however the larger display does make certain gestures difficult to pull off and certain UI elements hard to reach; not a problem for those with larger hands, but something to be aware of for the majority of users.
BlackBerry App World continues to grow its app selection, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to the competition, with a lackluster amount of quality free applications to choose from and some key omissions such as Snapchat, Vine and Instagram. We do appreciate that the out-of-box experience features Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Evernote as well as Microsoft Office document compatibility though.
Connected, fast and built to last
Not only is the Z30 the biggest BlackBerry on campus, it’s also the most powerful. The combination of a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and an Adreno 320GPU means that the UI is buttery smooth, Full HD video playback is lag-free and 3D gaming is very enjoyable, particularly with the four inbuilt speakers. What’s more, the 2880mAh battery does offer a solid day and a morning of general use, impressive to say the least.
As well as powerful, the Z30 also offers great connectivity, with WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE and NFC as standard. As we’ve already mentioned, business users and media buffs will also appreciated the HDMI output built into the phone’s side. BBM also features new sharing options and its screencasting functionality is a standout capability unique to BlackBerrys as an out-of-box trump card.
The imaging department falls to the same camera setup as the Q10: the rear-facing 8-megapixel camera with its LED flash shooting usable 1080p HD video and good stills across most conditions, although high contrast environments lead to under-exposure more often than not.
Getting a bit off trend
The BlackBerry Z30 is so far removed from the original ideals behind the company’s earlier devices that although its large screen will serve multimedia junkies well, at the same time it detracts from what makes BlackBerry unique. The business capabilities aren’t to be sniffed at, but the Z30 takes the fight to a corner of the market dominated by the competition and it simply can’t compete on the same level.
If you want BBOS 10 in your life then the BlackBerry Q10 is still undoubtedly the master of the company’s 2013 handset lineup. Bearing this in mind, there are more elegant, more powerful and more versatile full-touchscreen alternatives from different manufacturers that’ll better serve you, for around the same £470 you’d otherwise be spending on the BlackBerry Z30.